AOPA is opposing a proposed New Jersey law (A.B.1649) that would require criminal history record checks on flight students. In a letter to New Jersey Governor James E. McGreevey, AOPA President Phil Boyer said, "Passage of this legislation does nothing to enhance security or protect the citizens of your state, but it would impose an unnecessary restriction and encumbrance on those who seek to learn to fly.
"Pilots shouldn't be treated like they are criminals," Boyer said. New Jersey should allow the federal government to address security on a national level.
Federal law and court decisions make it clear that the states cannot regulate flight training, AOPA maintained. The association also said that, with more than 11,400 active pilots and nearly 1,800 new student pilots every year in New Jersey, the bill would create an administrative and financial burden for the state and flight schools and would discourage many people from learning to fly.
The New Jersey Senate previously passed a bill that would require flight students to undergo criminal background checks. The assembly bill will likely be taken up for a floor vote in early to mid-June. That would be the last step before the governor would consider the issue.
"Now is the time for our New Jersey members to contact their state assembly representatives," Boyer said, "or else next time you go to a flight school in New Jersey to get your BFR, you may have to pay for a criminal background check before you can fly with an instructor."
Pilots, aircraft owners, and flight training organizations in New Jersey are urged to contact their elected state assembly representatives and ask them to vote in opposition to Assembly Bill 1649. Letters and faxes are most effective, but e-mail and phone contacts are useful too. AOPA's 9,300 members in New Jersey can have a strong influence on legislators by voicing their concerns.